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Byron Shire
March 29, 2023

The Nimbin Aquarius festival is back!

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Nimbin Aquarius Festival, 1973. Photo Chris Meagher.

On Tuesday Council voted to write to Janelle Saffin MP, Kevin Hogan MP and Minister for the Arts & Tourism Ben Franklin MLC, requesting financial support for the Nimbin Aquarius Festival organisers to hold the 50th anniversary event in May. 

Cr Adam Guised moved the motion saying that the Nimbin Aquarius Festival is iconic to our region and an important tourist and arts attraction. ‘Planning is well underway to hold the 50th anniversary of the festival in Nimbin across 10 days in May 2023. 

‘The Nimbin Chamber of Commerce has taken a leading role in organising and driving the festival, but would benefit from significant funding to make the event of a scale and quality representative of our region. 

Living communally on the land was a practice that defined the northern rivers region after the Aquarius festival in 1973.

An iconic event would bring increased tourism

‘Funding such an iconic event would bring increased tourism, economic benefit and infrastructure to our region and leave a long-lasting legacy that continues into the future. 

Representing the festival organisers, Jenny Cornish said the event was planned for May. ‘It’s going to be the 50th anniversary from the 1973 one, which really gave birth to Nimbin and to the Northern Rivers counterculture, and a lot of the legacy that’s around us now. 

Ms Cornish said the plan was for a 10-day event. ’The original festival was 10 days – but it’s going to be somewhat more limited than the original one because Nimbin is a very, very tiny village and we can only fit a certain amount of people in there.

Streamed and beamed

‘We’re planning to have a streamed and beaming festival so that we do beam out the conversations –around all the subjects that are important to us back then (I did go to the original) and we want them to be ongoing, because we know we have a deep wealth of knowledge within the Northern Rivers region and certainly around Nimbin, so a lot of speakers will be local

‘One example of that is the intentional communities of which there’s something like 70 in the Northern Rivers area and many of these have been going 40 or 50 years. 

Ms Cornish said the event had gotten underway with staff but now had gone back to using a volunteer base. She said there was support from the Nimbin Chamber of Commerce and associated community resources.’

Ten days of themes

Ms Cornish said the event would have themed days including ideas around agriculture, death and becoming elders, youth, energy and energy generation, environment and activism, building structures and structures as well as spirit and taking care of self, and another themed day around First Nations people and another about community. ‘There are other things that are going to be woven into all of that, but we’re very much looking at what makes a whole life and what brings hope and spirit back into community and into individual’s lives.

Ms Cornish said there had been donations made to staging the event but more funds would be needed to pay workers at the event and broadcasting at the highest quality.

During the debate, Cr Adam Guise asked Councillors to vote to show a commitment and support to the festival. ‘I am asking counsellors to essentially advocate and lobby the state and federal governments and the relevant members, in order that they lend their financial support to this very worthy event. 

An event representative of the region

‘It is an iconic event representative of our region and it did create a social movement in alternative culture decades ago that forever changed Nimbin and forever changed our region and put our region on the map.

’It’s an important opportunity to revisit and reinvigorate the Aquarius spirit so that we can reimagine our place in the world and our connection to each other and the environment. It’s a very opportune time to do so and it’s something that continues what the original festival’s ethos was and the anniversaries since, which is, focusing on bringing people together to honour the interconnectedness of all life, all people and the planet – this is something that Nimbin-ites hold dear but also our broader region. And we should celebrate that.’

Cr Guise said he was pleased that festival organisers had fundraised extensively. ‘Council has already contributed to this which shows our confidence in the importance of this festival happening in this region, but events like this do need significant funds and to do a justice in order to pay artists, pay speakers, hire venues, pay for infrastructure, etc, some more significant funding is needed and we are in the midst of a state election campaign and that’s where governments will be keen to use our taxpayers money to fund important events like this. 

Innspiring future generations

‘This festival has the opportunity to attract significant tourism to our region. It will inspire future generations and it will reimagine our sustainable future in harmony with each other on the planet. So I asked councillors to support this.

Cr Gordon said Nimbin IS the jewel in the crown. ‘We recognise that, and right now we do need some jewels because our crown is a little bit tarnished. 

‘I think the 50th year is a significant milestone in any event, and for Aquarius to be gong for 50 years is pretty amazing, really. I have very fond memories of my childhood spending lots of time in Nimbin. I am very happy to support it.’

The Mayor asked for a vote and the response was unanimous support for the event.

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  1. Can someone please invite Philippe Petit?

    He was exceptional at the Aquarius Festival. Street juggling, unicycle, slack rope.
    Scene: Nimbin ’73. Everyone’s around Philippe Petit’s performance circle in the main street. A “hippy chick” comes out of the crowd, gives him a flower, he balances it, stem down, on his nose.

    After that he walks a tight rope between the northern pylons on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


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